Mottola takes U turn at Casablanca

Topper hopes to return label to prominence

Tommy Mottola, who ankled his post as the head of Sony Music earlier this year, is returning to the label business with the relaunch of Casablanca Records.

Universal Music Group has hired Mottola to run the label that was once a disco kingpin with acts such as Donna Summer and the Village People and had its first hits with Kiss. Universal’s Motown Records will distribute Casablanca albums.

Mottola said the label had signed three or four new artists and he hopes to have two records out before September.

‘Right combination of elements’

“I have looked closely at the many opportunities which have been offered to me over the last several months, but none have had the right combination of elements to attract me like the one from Universal,” Mottola said in a statement. “I could not ask for a better partner than” Universal Music Group chairman-CEO Doug Morris.

Motown Records Group chairman-CEO Mel Lewinter, who made the announcement with Morris, said that under Mottola’s leadership, “We are confident that Casablanca will provide the kind of organic environment needed for artists to develop, while at the same time benefiting from Universal Motown’s unique support system.”

Mottola’s big-name acts

During the 13 years Mottola was at the helm at Sony, the Columbia and Epic labels developed acts such as Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Aerosmith, Destiny’s Child, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Nas, the Dixie Chicks, Shakira and Marc Anthony. Mottola started as prexy of CBS Records in 1988; in 1993 he was named chairman-CEO of Sony Music. Before that, he managed Hall & Oates, Carly Simon and John Mellencamp, among others.

Since leaving Sony in January, Mottola has exec produced the TV show “Born to Diva” for VH1.

Viewed as the premier disco label of the era, Casablanca Records’ first incarnation ran from its founding in 1973 by the late Neil Bogart and 1984, when it was shut down. Casablanca’s roster in the 1970s included Cher, Giorgio Moroder and Parliament, and the company was sold to Polygram in 1980. Bogart died of cancer in 1982.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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